The Problem with Nick Franklin as SuperSub
Don' hold yer breath


Merks axs a very good question:

merksI know it's not ideal but I would rather have Franklin as my DH 4 times a week with a game or two in the field than trade him or send him down to Tacoma. Am I missing something here or has this been talked about?


SSI is all about creative thinking, but .... Let's start with an understanding how how most ML teams view reserve infielders (which is, like it or not, how they would view Nick Franklin if he were on the 25-man roster).

They view it as a VERY difficult, you could almost say near-impossible, assignment:  Your Willie Bloomquist, or your Mark McLemore, that guy is there to raise the manager's comfort level.  He has to sit on the bench, and be ready to play:

  • Second base, maybe
  • Shortstop, maybe
  • Third base, maybe
  • Other things too, maybe (pinch-run, fill in a double-switch, etc etc)

And he has to do so at a time when the manager is frazzed out.  The regular third baseman is drunk and hung over, let's say, and you got CC Sabathia in New York, and he looks down the bench, he doesn't want to see a kid with eyes like saucers.  Willie is there to jump into SS for one day and -- say it with Dr. D, now -- Not. Hurt. the. Team.

The reserve infielder is there to FEEL very reliable -- and to do so as a second baseman.  Then to feel very reliable as a third baseman.  Then to FEEL very reliable, as a shortstop.

That's why you hear people saying "It wouldn't be fair to Nick" to ask him to sit on the bench for 4 days, and then come in and play a reliable 3B.  What they mean by that is, "It wouldn't be fair to Lloyd McClendon's nerves."


Sabermetrically, this idea has traction.  If Dustin Ackley's bat suffered by having to think about defense so much, just because of playing 2B vs LF  ... well, how tough a position is it to play > ?  How much would that affect Nick's bat?

Quick-scan back through the Oakland A's, for example, and even there (the Grand Central Station of creative baseball thought) it's always Grizzled Vets playing backup infield.

  • 2013 = Alberto Callaspo and Adam Rosales
  • 2012 = Stephen Drew* then Cliff Pennington, and Kila Ka'aihue (Jemile Weeks was a regular)
  • 2011 = Mark Ellis, age 34
  • 2010 = Still Rosales

In fact Beane's teams don't tend to give many AB's to the backup infielders.  Beane likes for his DP combo to play together every day.


You wouldn't be quick to put any young infielder up from AAA into the backup role.  Now what about when it's an MLB-top 100 prospect?  Even Billy Beane would probably not do that - maybe ever.


The original question was, Well, how about DH.

Now, let's start with the observation that the Seattle Mariners have paid Corey Hart $10M, for one season, to drive in 90 runs for them Right Now.  (He'll make the $10M, if he drives in the 90, which they need him to.)

It will be a miracle if Hart plays 100 games in the outfield, much less 140.  The Mariners are well aware of this.


All that said, Lloyd McClendon is showing remarkable friendliness toward the concept that is Nick Franklin.  If and when he goes in there and sells them on Nick Franklin as part of a competition and jobshare, then Zduriencik would probably acquiesce.

All that said too, I think I remember Shannon Drayer characterizing the battle for the last roster spot, as one between Stefen Romero and Nick Franklin.  ... Supposing I remember that right, wouldn't even WE prefer to see Stefen Romero hit, and Nick Franklin build some experience in AAA?


Would Franklin himself be okay with playing 2-3 games per week?  Hey, every ballplayer would do an MLB(TM) anything, rather than going to the minors.  It's big league carpet in the clubhouse, big league chow, big league service time.  Franklin will argue long and hard that he's fine as a backup.

Personally, I would enjoy seeing Nick and Brad Miller (and others) compete all year at Safeco.  Yes, between DH and IF you could get him 300 AB's, and for Earl Weaver, that would be just fine and dandy.

But know how unorthodox this would be.  If McClendon is willing to manage that, he deserves a SEEERRrrrious standing O.


Dr D



I believe 50 games in the OF is a good place to set the Over/Under for Hart right now (and I would bet the under). There's a fair question to be asked about whether he starts the year on the DL, even. I don't quite think that happens, but then he is certainly not ripping lots of ropes around Arizona ballparks right now.
I know he missed a year, but he's more than a bit rusty. Hopefully he pops a couple of long flies in the next few games and gets some mojo going.
There isn't much of a trade market right now, it looks like, for Franklin in an only Franklin swap. Well, not much of a market for the kind of guy we want. So we may have to settle for a Viciedo or Tabata unless we get bold and throw a deluxe package out there. And the clock is ticking as we speak. Soon teams will pack up and head north with what they have and put trades on hold for a bit, barring injury.
I don't want to see him go, but unless we're willing to either trade Seager or put Franklin in the OF then Nick is surplus property. OK, we can Tacoma him in case Miller gets injured, and that makes some sense, too. Lots of sense in some ways. But I think he's going to be traded.
With Hart's struggles, Viciedo's career vL line of .322-.357-.551 (336 PA's) may look more and more appealing. He struggles vR, however. .242-.287-.388 are numbers that Romero may well exceed, by quite a bit.
Unless Hart starts looking like the Hart of old, or Smoak suddenly learns how to mash RH'ed, or Romero gets in the running for RoY, then we're still a RH bat short. Franklin and LoMo are all we got as MLB bait, unless we empty the spigots from the farm.
If Z sits pat and keeps Franklin in Tacoma and Seager sproings a tendon and Hart starts smokin' then the GM looks like a genius. But barring Seager/Miller/Cano injury or collapse then Franklin is more valuable going elsewhere.
If we're not willing to OF him now, then would we be next year? He's more valuable to us then Morrison, but he's not going to field grounders very often. In the DH/IF format you could probably get him 100 starts, Doc. Well, 85 easily. But without Hart, there's a RH bat out there that we need. Franklin is likely the cash to get him.

pointsette's picture

The Mariners have invested a lot of time and money for first rounder franklin. It doesn't make business sense to keep cheaper versions of franklin on the team while he gets stashed in AAA. He hasn't disappointed the org in performance. Even though a lot of people have pointed out his BA last year, he actually did very well in many 'top rookie' categories due to his performance over the first three months in bigs.
That's why I believe he either needs to be on the 25 man roster or traded for a MLB guy.


You are a fool to undermine your own side of the argument.
So far the M's have been very much "on message": Nick Franklin is a middle infielder and he is every bit as good as Brad Miller.
As always, your posturing has additional impact when it has the advantage of being true (or at least arguably true).  But even if it's not technically true (though in this case it is very close to true) -- the M's need to say it, and keep saying it, anyway.
Once Seattle starts backing away from that message, don't you think the teams on the opposite side of the negotiations will notice, and pounce?
McClendon has been a "team player" on this one, showing presidential-campaign-level "message discipline."
Once you start slapping even the aroma of "utility guy" on Franklin, then your return in a trade will not be what you want. 
If there is no trade, I think he will go to Tacoma and play middle infield.  To do otherwise is to devalue your own asset.
It might be different if Franklin really brought big value to the MLB club as a bench guy, but the role they need to fill is an extra RH bat with some power, and Franklin's RH bat isn't that good anyway.

Mekias's picture

I don't get the need to push Franklin back to Seattle immediately. He had a 90 wRC+ last year. It's not like he's already figured everything out and is just wasting away in the minors. Franklin still has things he can work on in AAA. He probably wouldn't be valuable as a DH and his progression could stall if he isn't playing every day.


Let Franklin play every day in AAA. While I accept the notion that some players are at a point where their development is stunted by continuing in AAA, Nick Franklin is 23. At this point and in these circumstances keeping him in AAA is a roster decision, not a development decision. You have a middle infield logjam where he's the odd man out despite being a high upside prospect whose early success last year proved he's very much worth an MLB chance at reaching that upside.
Unfortunately it appears Seattle still values him higher than other teams. So to me, instead of trading him now you play for time. Stash him in AAA at least until the trade deadline in hopes that his play there will restore the shine of his early success. All it would take to immediately transform the situation would be one of two things to develop: either an injury to Cano, Miller or Seager, or a team finally comes around to your trade terms. If Seattle thinks so highly of Nick, they ought to be willing to bank on their instincts.

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